Groups & programs in Michigan help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life

Posted at 5:45 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 06:43:25-05

(WXYZ) — Thursday is Veterans Day, a day to celebrate those who served, and we wanted to highlight some of the difficulties they face.

When many veterans return home, it can be hard to reintegrate back into civilian life.

Many veterans deal with the aftermath of war and the reintegration back into society, but there are groups out there that can help.

Related: Resources for veterans in Michigan

Sometimes it's the Americans who we call heroes that need the most help, even when you don't see it.

Tom Jones is a 101st Airborne veteran who saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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He suffered a traumatic brain injury after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

When he returned home, it was the integration back into society that he and so many others struggle with.

"Once that community comradery gets back, a lot of their lives you see that mission focus come through," he said.

He started Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors, MIOFO for short, which provides improved outdoor recreation opportunities for wounded veterans and those with health challenges.

"War is war. You sit them across the table with a cup of coffee and there's a lot of commonalities. There's a lot of good conversation. That there's a lot of healing going on," Tom Jones, the MIOFO president, said.

One of the hundreds of veterans who have benefited from MIOFO is retired Navy veteran Rob Ludwick. He spent 20 years serving our country as a special security assistant in the Navy, traveling the world.

While he was serving, he lost his wife to cancer and his child within two years, putting personal life on the backburner.

"You kind of have to put mourning to the side and you have to figure out how to manage staying in the military," he said. "Single father, with a child and being deployable, so it makes it really complicated and hard."

When he left the Navy, he felt like all the doors that were once open all closed, sending him into a deep depression and made him feel lost. That was until he heard about a radio event for an event hosted by MIOFO.

"You had a culmination of all of these veterans, and it was just good to kick back laugh and just talk about old times," he said. "We all had something in common. That comradery, that fellowship the brotherhood it kind of all came back."

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors is just one of dozens of veterans groups in the state to help our heroes.